COVID-19; Social Distancing; New York City; Public Schools
City principal unions are demanding that the city reconsider reopening in-person schooling in the fall. Photo Credit: FLICKR

Dozens of Brooklyn public school principals are demanding the city delays reopening in-person schooling this fall, stating no schools are adequately prepared for a safe return amid COVID-19, The Brooklyn Paper reports.

Educators are calling on the city to halt in-person attendance completely until September 18 so staff can learn new safety protocols and reconstruct their classrooms to adapt to social distancing regulations.

“At this point, it is becoming abundantly clear that our schools cannot open safely and effectively on Sep. 10,” an Aug. 11 letter from District 15 principals to the mayor, governor and School Chancellor Richard Carranza read.

From Sept. 21 to Oct. 18, the administrators are demanding individual schools be given the option to phase some students back into the classrooms on a rotating schedule.

The principals’ list of demands also includes reports on functioning ventilation in each school building, assurances on shipments of protective equipment and a finalized list of faculty deemed excused from in-person schooling.

“We are gravely concerned that the central response to opening has been piecemeal, and many of the most important questions about health and safety, space usage, academic policy, Special Education policy, and policy for multilingual learners still remain unanswered,” the principals wrote.

In agreement, 42 principals from neighboring School District 13—which includes Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant—also created a list of demands in a separate petition.

With little to no confidence in a safe reopening, educators from both school districts also demanded the city allow them to teach some classes outdoors, with District 15 noting private schools with more resources were already gathering tents and negotiating outdoor space with elected officials.

“As each day passes without clear guidance and safety assurances, it becomes less likely that we will be ready to reopen in September,” Union Head Mark Cannizzaro wrote. “Without clear guidance and support on protocols and issues of safety, staffing, and programming, [our] tasks are unrealistic and insurmountable.”

During a press briefing on Aug. 13, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised that every school would have a certified nurse in the building and acknowledged that the city was working to improve their plans.

Even as objections arise, de Blasio stands firm in his belief that in-person schooling is an integral part of New York’s road to recovery.

“We’ve got a huge majority of our parents begging us to give kids health and support again, we’ve got kids who desperately want to get back to school and start learning again,” he said. “But if people say, look, it’s not perfect therefore we don’t want to participate. That’s not New York. New Yorkers do not need perfection. New Yorkers are pragmatic, New Yorkers are tough.”

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Kimberlean Donis

Kimberlean Donis is a journalist based in Brooklyn. She is a student at Williams College majoring in Political Science and Art History.

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